The three-year mile: Thai government extends the enforcement period for illegal hotel businesses

As a prime tourist destination, Thailand has a vast number of accommodation businesses offering rental or temporary stay services for travellers and short-term residents. However, many of these businesses are deemed to be operating illegally without proper licenses, including several hostels and Airbnb accommodations. An estimated 40,000 buildings across Thailand are said to be illegally providing accommodation. While several have already undergone the process of applying for licenses, many applicants have been unable to meet the deadline.

To ensure that non-compliant hotel operators are given time to apply for the necessary licenses and make appropriate adjustments to their buildings under Ministerial Regulations No. 2 B.E. 2561 (2018), an extension of the enforcement deadline was granted by the Ministry of Interior on 6 August 2021 via Ministerial Regulations No. 3 B.E. 2564 – which allows non-compliant hotel operators to have until 18 August 2024 to meet the requirements, which includes enacting appropriate safety requirements, acquiring relevant licenses, and obtaining appropriate building permits.

Thailand’s hotel regulations in context

Under Thailand’s Hotel Act B.E. 2547 (2004), businesses providing temporary accommodation for less than one month fall within the scope of operating a hotel business, which requires a hotel license. To obtain this, businesses must meet a list of requirements and comply with significant building regulations. Hotel operators found to be operating a hotel business without a license face imprisonment for up to one year and/or a fine of up to THB 20,000. This is on top of a daily fine of up to THB 10,000 during the non-compliance period.

On 19 August 2016, the Ministry of Interior issued the first Ministerial Regulation Prescribing Qualifications of Other Types of Buildings Used for a Hotel Business Operations B.E. 2559 (2016) under the Building Control Act B.E. 2522 (1979). This Ministerial Regulation specifies the types of buildings to be used as hotels and also set out safety requirements, including specifications on the length and width of ladders and walkways used in hotel buildings. It also requires hotel buildings with more than three floors to have poles, beams, walls, and roofs made of fireproof materials, and those with more than four floors to have a fire escape and extinguishers installed on each floor.  A hotel building’s boundaries, including parking space, vertical distances, and spaces between other buildings, must likewise comply with the provisions of the Ministerial Regulations.